"Appointment centre"

About: Dumfries & Galloway Royal Infirmary

(as the patient),

I receive letters (First Class) each time an appointment is due for one of my many clinic appointments. I then have to phone (at my expense) to arrange a date - yesterday I held on for 14 minutes, progressing from 12 in a queue to 2nd, only to have the line transferred to main reception, who connected me via another line. Total time 22 minutes. Appointment agreed, but the centre insist on sending out another first class letter to confirm.

Bad practice, costing NHS too much in postage and staff time. Revert to one letter giving appointment and leave it to patient to 'phone if inconvenient. This would reduce staff costs and mail i think.

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Response from Michaela Cannon, Patient Feedback and Complaints Co-ordinator, Patient Services, NHS Dumfries & Galloway

Dear Redbreast,

Thank you for taking the time to provide us with your feedback. Without having your personal details we are unable to comment on your specific circumstances, however I thought it might be helpful to explain the general processes around the issues you have raised.

Number of letters received

NHS Dumfries & Galloway strive to provide the lowest waiting times possible for patients. The process of appointment booking is operated through a service entitle “Patient Focused Booking” which as it sounds, focuses on providing a service focused on the availability of the patients. All new appointment offers are sent first class if they are within 6 weeks of being seen to allow sufficient time to follow up when patients do not respond. A second letter and subsequent telephone call can be made to get confirmation of the appointment. Second class post is used for all other letter communication where the timeframe is less important. This is a well thought out process and first class post is used only when required.

The second point you raise around why a second letter is sent; this is because each letter has the details of the appointment with barcoded identification so when a patient arrives at the hospital for their appointment it can be processed quickly and efficiently by the reception staff. Also, patients are asked to list their current medication on the back of the appointment letter prior to their appointment. This saves time during the consultation as the doctor does not have to reconcile the patient’s medication.

Telephone response

I do find the time you waited to speak to the appointment line unacceptable. From the Patient Opinion Website I assume your poor experience was in the first few days following the Festive break. The system we use in NHS Dumfries & Galloway is entitled “Patient Focused Booking”. This process is designed to maximise the use of appointment slots in outpatient clinics and in doing so we enjoy the lowest “did not attend” rates in Scotland of around 3%. Unfortunately, as you suggest, patients do not always let the service know when they are not going to attend, hence we do spend significant sums making sure our clinics are as full as possible causing our appointment centre staff to become incredibly busy to ensure our waiting times are as low as possible. This service takes on average 300-400 calls per day and average call waits are monitored closely. During the days following the Festive break there were almost double the number of calls per day received which unfortunately led to a longer wait for cal to be answered. This was exacerbated with staff sickness causing clinics to be changed or cancelled causing significant resource to rearrange those appointments urgently. I can confirm this was a very unusual period for us.

I hope that this information has been helpful. If you would like to discuss the specific circumstances relating to your personal experience, please contact Michaela Cannon, Patient Feedback and Complaints Co-ordinator on 01387 272733 or email michaela.cannon@nhs.net.

Best wishes

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